How farmers are milking the latest trends to diversify in Gloucestershire

Adrian and Adie Batt have their milk vending venture at Mitcheldean Milkshed
-Credit: (Image: Mitcheldean Milkshed)

Across Gloucestershire, numerous dairy farms are producing food and drink for consumers. The latest trend for farmers is diversification, and for three we've interviewed at Gloucestershire Live, milk vending - selling milk via on-farm machines - has gained in popularity.

This surge in popularity primarily arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as more consumers opted to shop locally, leading to an estimated 400 milk vending machines across the UK. Interest in where milk and produce is sourced and produced, is one reason why it has exploded into life says Jenni Hobbs at Wholly Gelato, an award-winning milk and ice-cream producer.

She prides herself on using milk fresh from the farm in Elmore - and fruit from the village for the ice cream flavour. She said: "Milk is important for us and we definitely celebrate what we do and we have become very busy. The cows have come out into the fields later than usual this year and once we started the gelato (in 2018) we have just had people coming very quickly to try us."

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The Archbishop of Canterbury paying a visit to Wholly Gelato at Gloucester Food Dock
The Archbishop of Canterbury paying a visit to Wholly Gelato at Gloucester Food Dock -Credit:Kyla Hyett

Never wanting it to "go nuts", the family-farm has been around since 1970 and Wholly Gelato farm with approximately 350 acres with cows grazing freely during the warmer months. Unlike traditional ice-cream, their gelato contains a higher concentration of milk (over 65% in every scoop) as well as less cream, less air, and no egg.

Their milk-vending machine began in 2019 and now the adventure has gone to greater heights with the opening of Wholly Gelato at Gloucester Food Dock and a visit recently by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. "We absolutely believe in producing food and milk for Gloucestershire and diversifying is the buzz word," Jenni adds.

At Horsemarling Farm on the edge of Stonehouse, the Percival family run their own milk vending venture with Stonehouse Milk. With the Shorthorn breed of cattle known for excellent milk quality, John Percival says with milk prices high their machine has been "critical for us at the moment. This is keeping us going and it also allows us to sell other things (including eggs, butter and cheese) and if we didn't bring the machine we wouldn't have that contact with the consumer."

The whole point is to produce and supply ethically sourced milk to the community and like Wholly Gelato, Stonehouse Milk have their own branded glass bottles, milk going from the herd to the machine in under 24 hours and "all of this adds value to what we can do for the community", John adds.

Jenny and John Percival at Horsemarling Farm with Stonehouse Milk a place for you to get fresh milk
Jenny and John Percival at Horsemarling Farm with Stonehouse Milk a place for you to get fresh milk -Credit:Will Luker

Branded glass bottles and serving the community fresh milk and nearby produce is exactly what Adie and Adrian Batt are doing at Mitcheldean Milkshed in the Forest of Dean. As third generation farmers, the need for their vending machine came about due to a real need in upgrading the way milk came out of the parlour at their farm.

Seeing more people in the community purchasing their produce, as well as supporting nearby Smarts Cheese through the vending machine, Adie says "more people have become interested in the idea because I think especially during COVID more people were buying local" and without this machine "we probably wouldn't be here."

"What we do here is a little reinvestment in the consumer, generate a little more income when it is tough and I do think more and more members of the community are taking an interest in helping their local farmers out," Adie adds.

With the pandemic maybe making more of us realise why Gloucestershire farmers are crucial to the food and milk we eat, buying their dairy products and just giving milk vending a go might be on your radar next.